Eurogamer: These 1200- or 1500-player fleet battles will work in Incursion, then?
Torfi Frans Olafsson: I'm saying that we have reason to believe they should work better. I'm not going to make any promises because we don't really know.
We've put them under serious strain and engineers have isolated a number of isolated fixes and improvements that they are progressively rolling out. But improving the service is an ongoing struggle. I hope, and I think, it will improve.
Eurogamer: Incursion promises improvements to character creation, NPCs, graphics and planetary interaction. How much of an overhaul is the EVE Online engine getting to cope with this?
Torfi Frans Olafsson: The engine is constantly undergoing some improvements. The new graphics that you refer to: we're not introducing any major graphical changes to what you see in space. However, the new awesome graphics are mostly focused on our characters.
A couple of years ago we released an expansion called Trinity, which updated all of the ships in game; we remodelled all of the ships using the latest standards and upgraded the textures and future-proofed the space part of the game. Dominion did [the same to] all of the planets. But the characters have stayed the same since the game launched in 2003.
We have assembled a team of world class artists both in-house and contracting to build totally new heads and bodies for our 24 different races, bloodlines and genders. And we've created a world class character customisation system on top of that, which really empowers you to create strong, archetypical characters rooted in the IP of EVE.
Now what that means is people who have grown attached to how their characters look will have to suffer, because they will change. We're taking them of the cartoony and caricature, and deeper into reality, which follows EVE mood of a dark and gritty hybrid.
All existing players will need to update their characters, but with the technology and the options available, I think they will enjoy it - and I hope they will be happy with the changes we've made.
Eurogamer: Will existing players be taken to a character creation screen to rebuild their character, then?
Torfi Frans Olafsson: Yeah.
Eurogamer: Planetary interaction is set to become "more dynamic and simplified". What's happening there?
Torfi Frans Olafsson: We didn't give ourselves enough time to implement planetary interaction the first time around. We didn't undergo proper play-testing before we launched. What we discovered was that it required a tremendous amount of mouse clicking to maintain your planetary colonies: it required more clicking than thinking. You did all your thinking upfront, and then there wasn't any cerebral action required.
We've optimised it and reduced the amount of heavy clicking and maintenance that you need to do. We've also added elements of gameplay that can really maximise your production and your output. These are usability improvements based on the feedback we've had from our players.
We will continue to iterate on planetary interaction for a while, actually, alongside everything else, because it is preparing the road for the EVE-DUST connection, where fights are going to happen down on the planets.
Eurogamer: Incursion is bringing about changes to the EVE online portal EVEGate, too, such as a new forums to aid organisation. What other changes are coming?
Torfi Frans Olafsson: We're hoping to put in image uploading from within the game. Also, you will be able to broadcast from within the game, essentially tying the game and EVEGate closer together.
Ultimately we want you to be able to play parts of the game through EVEGate. When you are not at your client you will be able to log onto the web and access elements of the game, not only to see what the status is but to interact. But right now we are focusing more on the social features.
We can't promise what will be in an expansion because we might find that item two on the list took more time than we thought, so we just don't do item three. But one item on the backlog is the ability to use EVE Voice on the website; to have conversations with people in the game through a plug-in on the website.
Eurogamer: The Council of Stellar Management seemed to have a lot to do with the features within Incursion. Paradoxically, however, the same community that elected that CSM complains that CCP takes no notice of them. What's going on?
Torfi Frans Olafsson: Like I said, EVE is a massive game. It has so many features that have been added over seven years that not everybody agrees on the exact function and the exact quality of each of these things.
The CSM is a tremendously valuable tool to help us figure out priorities: which of these systems and items and modules we should be fixing or improving at any given time. But there are only so many EVE developers and only so many months in the release cycle.
We work closely with the CSM, and we've taught them about how we work. They provide us with prioritised lists, and I hope people appreciate the items that get fixed.
It would be impossible to please all of the voices, because with a large community of players like this - 330,000 players - and a developer team, which is not made of 330,000 developers, it will be hard to accommodate everybody's needs in a release cycle.
While the feedback is really important, and we understand that some people feel their issues and concerns are not being addressed, I would say we are doing the best that we can to accommodate them, and we will continue to do so.
I'm just really happy that we have this relationship with our players, even though it means opening us up for a lot of criticism and showing them into the kitchen and how the hot dogs are made, which we do - we have them over here and we walk them through the office and tell them exactly what we're doing.
I would say we're doing the best we can and we hope to improve in the future. People don't feel it's good enough.